London based singer songwriter David Thomas Broughton is a rare breed of artist whose flaws are charmingly kept intact thanks to healthy doses of spontaneity whether in the recording studio where he often lays down a track in one take, or on the stage which he too treats as a playground of sound, looping what noises he can from his throat, guitar and an amalgamation of objects stuffed into a Sainsbury’s carrier bag.
Opening with the reworked track “Perfect Louse”, Broughton’s set commenced in the typically traditional vein of the folk troubadour with a rich timbre that at times brought to mind Antony (& the Johnsons) Hegarty. With the track gradually giving way to the cracklings of field recordings, another prime characteristic, the evening began its descent into what can only be described as interactive folk: Everything teetering between a theatrical act that was almost magician-like in Broughton’s miming and movements, and tender self-confessions.
The second track’s lyrics “What can I do?” offered some kind of rhetorical question and cemented his live performance as unplanned as he shuffled around stage looping guitars, footsteps, cracks, coughs, sniffs and heavy breathing, later even stating “what is going on with the stage?” as if it almost refused to co-operate with his antics.
As yet another master of the loop pedal he will, and possibly has been, compared to the likes of musician-inventor Thomas Truax and violinist Andrew Bird, with David Thomas Broughton finding his footing between the clamor of the former and sublime of the latter.
Over the course of the evening the looped noises became more erratic and haphazard. The carrier bag which acted as a magician’s hat exposed some kind of rape alarm which, irritatingly, beeped incessantly through tracks, later a magazine travel advertisement which Broughton seemingly spontaneously sung from offered an idyllic paradise for his lyrics. Lead cords were thrown at the wall and that too was layered into the mix, along with a fallen bottle of water and feedback.
As he closed the set and walked offstage to the sound of repeated clickings and field recordings there was a hesitant pause: “Has he finished? Do we ruin the moment in applause?” Awkward expectation and appreciation all around.
What is most interesting to note however is why all of this excess is necessary. His tracks can stand alone without the quirkiness, with strong lyricisms that cut deep: “my body is so crap at staying true, to my will and the way I’d like to be, my father’s fist is a brick in my heart, as my face speckled with hormones, my mouth closed in retreat”. But it becomes clear observing him, that while at times his stage show, which demands visual attention, may detract from what is at the heart of the matter, in a sense it goes further to the core of these often haunting tracks of a troubled mind. As if Jekyl and Hyde are battling it out; the former trying to tell the story while the latter masks it in obscurity.
The absurdity of the evening was something that constantly posed the question “is this bizarre brilliance or contrived chaos?”. Though that said it didn’t really matter, however unnerving it was at times, it was highly entertaining to watch this loose cannon.